Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Alan Johnston; out of Gaza

For four months BBC journalist Alan Johnston was held hostage in Gaza (we call it 'Aza). I was rather put off by the carnival around his release and felt it was a Hamas publicity stunt. (see blog) Nevertheless, the persona and the plight of Alan Johnston was and is very fascinating. It was very fortunate therefore, he has written a book about his experiences and was invited to talk with Jon Snow (Channel 4) and the public at the RSA. More so, that this conversation was recorded and published as a podcast episode by UChannel.

The talk turns very personal. Johnston relates how he managed to psychologically survive. How he worried about his parents. How he managed (or not) to maintain some kind of relationship with his main jailer. And about the feelings when released and about coming home. Allow me to paraphrase: I entered the kitchen. You probably enter the kitchen a million times in your life and it is the most ordinary experience, but this time I was so aware of it and so happy about it.

His words are not just about his own plight, they are also about Gaza. He claims to be one of the very very few outsiders who have actually lived in Gaza and who understand how life is over there. His sketch is grim, his outlook is pessimistic. He doesn't take sides with Fatah or Hamas or anybody else. It is a tough story and if not for Gaza, for Johnston it has a happy ending. If not complete, in any case the podcast is a delight to listen to.

More UChannel (aka University Channel podcast):
Nuclear Terrorism,
Attack Iran (or not),
Israel, Iran, terrorism,
Less Safe, Less Free (Losing the War on Terror),
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.

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Upcoming podcast reviews on "Anne is a man!"

Within 24 hours:
- A conversation with Alan Johnston
- NRC FM (The New Russia)

Within 48 hours:
- Distillations
- The Biography Show (Alexander the Great)

In the coming days
- Open Source (After the Empire: Must Reading from Parag Khanna)
- UChannel Podcast
- Environmental History (Urban Air Pollution)
- Shrink Rap Radio (Mindmentor and others)
- More Simek
- Speaking of Faith: No more taking sides

This month: A new podcast directory to be added, Geography Podcasts.

New podcasts on trial:
Chronicles Radio Dispatches
Africa Past and Present

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Democracy in America

What I need, as an outsider of American politics, is an explanation of what is going on right now - such as the pre-elections for the candidates to the presidency. In addition to that I need background exposes in order to get the general picture right. The blog Democracy in America on The Economist does exactly that. It also provides audio which is integrated in the general Economist Podcast. Alternately there is a review of the latest caucuses and their results and an interview with a specialist on a certain general topic in the US.

The latest to issues I listened to with great interest carried these two marks. One analyzing the latest results and evaluating the three most likely candidates as things stand right now: McCain, Obama and Clinton. McCain earned from the success of the surge in Iraq and seems to manage to overcome the hesitations Republicans have with him (as not being enough of a conservative). Obama is characterized as the one who may mobilize 60% of the electorate, yet can also drop to 40%. Clinton on the other hand is named a controversial figure who may hold 49% and has no chance on the opposing 49% and whose presidential campaign should mean to to win over the remaining 2%.

The other episode features an interview with Bradley Smith about the way campaign financing is regulated in the US. Should this be reformed? What ideas are about that. (Among others from McCain) Generally, financing is not coming from the government but from private organizations and individuals. To what extent does that lead to more corruption or less?

More from the Economist:
Issues of Race,
The primary system,
The Economist in New Hampshire,
A biography for Barack Obama and one for Hillary Clinton,
The Economist podcast.

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